Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Elected By a Hair

I've never been much of a joiner or Rotarian or anything. I'm not good at meetings because the people who enjoy talking the most tend to have the least to say, and I have a dangerously low regard for human life.

But attending a Democratic Party Fundraiser last week was too good an offer to refuse. More speeches and pats on the back and honors than a high school graduation, and lots of "may-I-introduce-my-dear-friend-and-colleague...", but still it's fun to see famous politicians just walking around loose. It would have been worth the admission just to see Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson and His Mighty Hair, except I was a guest and didn't pay any admission at all.

I have been to Republican dinners before. Republicans offer chicken or beef, but everyone orders beef. Democrats know what is the Public Good so they just bring you beef. After that, the dinners were the same.

I noticed a reliable trend and my date confirmed it: local politicians all seemed to be balding, while national politicians have gobs of hair. I think this is why five million of his own dollars couldn't get Pete Ricketts elected to the US Senate. Perhaps he should consider State Treasurer, like Shane Osborn, who was elected to that local post even though he has a crew cut and his only qualification for public service is that his American plane crashed into a Chinese plane, and now he sells plane insurance.

Best of all, not counting the cheesecake, was that I got to see former US Senator and presidential hopeful Bob Kerrey. He is like one of the Lesser Kennedys: very bright and inspiring but not as photogenic as John or Bobby. I think he would have been president if he were prettier and had a regular shaped head. He was defeated in the primaries by Al Gore, who is hairier. After his speech I was ready to join up, his hair notwithstanding.

Of course, I still didn't drop any cash into the bowls held by scowlingly expectant girls at the door.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Naked Truth

My sister Jodi and I were promised we would see a nude beach, so we kept our eyes peeled. We were hiking along a narrow, rocky ridge following the Italian coastline high above the Ligurian Sea. It was a perfect vantage point for peeking.

It was midafternoon when we finally spied it. There was only one guy on the beach, pacing around with a mix of anticipation and disappointment. He was clearly a tourist. I suspect that like us he had read about the beach in his Fodor's travel guide. He tried to act casual and go for a swim. Bad plan: it was a chilly sixty degrees outside. Judging from the humbled results he was either very cold or very Scottish. A Speedo would have been saggy on him.

Nudism is better left for the imagination. I read in the newspaper recently that private nudist colonies are offering discounted memberships to young prospects. They say their ranks are dwindling and aging. Indeed, the median member age is 55 years old. It is the same problem the Elks Club and the Rotarians have, they say: young people just aren't joiners.

I think the problem is simpler: young people don't want to see old people naked.

"Wow, Crystal, isn't that your dad and his bowling buddies over there?" Eew.

In addition to the discounted membership, one colony advertised half-price "amenities." What amenities do you need if you are naked? Sunscreen? Duct tape to hold your wallet to your butt? A magnifying glass?

I don't believe them when nudists claim all they want is to "be free." They want to see nice naked bodies, heck yeah. Otherwise they wouldn't care about member age—they'd be happy just walking around naked at home.

There are a few good things about nudist colonies. People are much more likely to notice that expensive new watch or flashy engagement ring. And you always know when someone is happy to see you.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Phantom Ring

I talk about my cell phone a lot. It's not that I'm a Luddite—I've used cell phones since we first tried to pronounce Nokia. My first phone was about the size of a circus hot dog. I had it until it was run over by a hearse.

I miss it. The little 1x1" screen got crushed. After that it only displayed black, liquidy pop-art puddles. Cool, but you couldn't see what you were dialing, and I was taught not to speak to strangers.

My newest phone has lots of clever ringtones, none of which I can hear. So I often set it to buzz, then put it in my pocket so I can feel it vibrate on my thigh. That works better, and when I'm lonely I can call myself.

But lately my thigh has been buzzing even when I don't have my phone. I have developed a phantom ring.

It started when I crashed my sailboat twice in one day. My boat is fast but volatile, more or less two big water skis with a trampoline stretched between them to sit on. Lots of sail, not much boat, so it blows over sometimes, and you get bucked off. If your body flies above all the rigging, it's like being thrown by your friends into a cool lake: fun. If instead you go through the rigging it's more like being thrown into a pinball game. Bing-Konk-Bang-Pop-Ding!

After doing the latter last weekend (ow.) my left thigh has been randomly buzzing. I go to answer it but there is no one home, not even a phone. I even tried yelling at my leg: "Who is it?!" but nothing. An hour later it will ring again. Is this like when war vets lose a limb, and yet it still itches? Do they get phantom phone calls? If you were attacked in Kabul by a suicide bomber and you lost your ears, would you still feel your iPod?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Gimme A Hand

My neighbor, Matt, is getting famous. He makes big bronze sculptures in his studio next to Mick's, my bar. I go over there all the time to see what he's up to and to avoid doing my own work.

A while ago he asked me if I would model for one of his statues. I immediately imagined myself as naked as Michelangelo's David, all rippling muscles and buggy-out veins and big hands and--well, you know, big hands.

"Put this on." Matt hands me a baggy lime-green leisure suit. At least the one I wore to my high school prom fit me. "We need to photograph how the pants and jacket drape." I am asked to strike a pose of a trumpet player. Not the gig I imagined, but if I may blow my own horn, I do feel qualified. My dad was pretty good on the cornet.

I learned that it is very hard to be blaring one's horn up to the sky, back all arched and mute outstretched, for twenty minutes.

"What in the world did you do to get so hinked up?" my chiropractor asked the next day. I started to explain, but gave up and lied something about softball.

A few weeks later Matt called me again. They were having trouble getting the trumpeter's hand right. I struck my best hand pose, and this time they cast it in plaster. Sweet! At least part of the actual me was going to be in the statue. My first hand job.

The statue is now finished. It's in front of the Qwest Center, along with a bunch of jugglers and clowns, 42 pieces in all. I was surprised to discover that the statue I had been posing for was of an old black man.

At least he is on a pedestal—someplace I have always thought I belonged. And I like my new claim to fame. I literally lent him a hand. Every time I pass him I strike the pose.

His dirty secret is that, although he is a old black New Orleans jazz musician, his stance is that of a lanky Scottish guy from Omaha.

Neighbor Matt is going to be on TV tonight as they run a feature documentary on Illumina, his big sculpture installation at the Qwest Center in Omaha. When you see the old black trumpet player, think of me.